Faith!, the latest ideas-based challenge organised by Combo Competitions, asked participants to design a place of worship in London. In spite of the beguiling simplicity of the title, coupled with a typically open brief, the placed winners and three honourable mentions exhibit a diverse, exciting collection of conceptual drawings and visuals. With an interesting balance of playful interpretations and more grounded proposals, all start to address relevant socio-political issues - such as the mutual acceptance and peaceful co-existence of different religions - in some way. The competition asked participants first and foremost to seek to merge two concepts: religion and knowledge.
Faith is a powerful word, with different meaning to us all. It can provide hope and security, trust and confidence. It helps numerous people through the day, every day. With faith comes conviction. However, with conviction sometimes follows conflict. And conflicts often stem from a lack of understanding. In a perfect world we would all have a mutual acceptance towards each other, regardless of what we know about someone else’s beliefs and opinions. In the meantime, a way to help people embracing a different faith than their own could be to try and educate them.
The challenge consisted of two parts: to design a place of worship alongside a place of information. Alongside examples such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any of the other world religions, the brief also encouraged an architectural investigation of an indigenous religion, or a belief associated with a New Religious Movement. In addition to presenting a design of the actual place of worship, the proposal had to include a component dedicated to informing and educating people who are interested in knowing more about the specific religion that they explored. Whether this component was integrated into the overall structure, a freestanding object, or simply a concept was at the participants' discretion.
First Place: Camley Street Sylvan Chapel / Paul Cohoon
From the Jury. The poetic atmosphere of the presentation combined with a convincing approach, Camley Street Sylvan Chapel offers a reflective and highly enticing space, inviting nature to take to the place of religion. The detailed programming and attentive siting propose a clear vision of spirituality as embedded in the life of this neighbourhood. The meticulous attention to specific architectural moments as well as a perfect mix of built form and landscape enriches the project further. Rather than proposing a bold and provocative idea, Camley Street Sylvan Chapel suggests a subtle yet convincing attitude to the concept of faith as we see it today.
Second Place: Faith That The Sky Is Not Falling / W. Allen Zimmerman and Marie Wastiau
From the Jury. A beautiful idea and a consistent theme, Faith That The Sky Is Not Falling performs in multiple ways by embracing both the individual and contemplative nature of faith, but also the larger communal aspect of religion. The metaphor between over-world and under-world is intriguing, as is the proximity and the way that the proposal sits on the site. The different levels of interaction and seclusion add to the possibilities for visitors to engage, and the personal sanctuaries ties in neatly with the storyline about self-belief. The appealing aesthetics could even add to the regeneration of the area.
Third Place: You Are Here / Felicity Barbur and Edward Crooks
From the Jury. An engaging and self-explanatory presentation of an innovative take on worship. By shifting focus from a single belief to all religions, You Are Here addresses faith in a very democratic sense. This is in turn enhanced by allowing the space to transcend into the air for all to experience. The proposal is further solidified by bringing boating culture and the artistic resources of neighbouring school Central St. Martins school into the equation.
Honourable Mention: Russell's Teapot / Adam Hewgill and Louise Claeys
From the Jury. By suggesting a place that focuses on asking questions rather than following set directives, Russell’s Teapot is a comforting alternative for those in doubt. The introduction of an alien object turned into a tearoom adds a playful undertone to a serious matter, which offers a welcoming community where focus lies on discussion and contemplation.
Honourable Mention: St. Martin's Church / Rory Allen and Tony Lees
From the Jury. The concept enacts spirituality at many different scales: from the public realm to the secluded bench, from the church to the classroom. The use of art as a beacon works well, and the clear strategy for a procession towards the entrance along the water is dramatic and shows an understanding of the site. The church interior has been rethought from a formalised space to a casual, inviting one. It is not desacralised to the point of feeling like a school, yet it has the inviting ease of a community center.
Honourable Mention: Soaking Prayer in Year 2100 / Simonet Noe
From the Jury. Soaking Prayer In Year 2100 takes the standpoint of world religions as static entities in need of rescue. Paired with a comment on the state of the environment, the approach exposes two contradictory impulses behind thinking about religions in contemporary society. On the one hand religions are seen as fixed, immutable phenomena. But this same immutability threatens their existence. The proposal suggests a Noah’s Ark for religions, saving them just in time before the flood: figuratively and literally.